New York City to Replace Automatic Teacher Tenure With Performance System

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg plans to overhaul how tenure is awarded in city schools and institute a system that grants job security based on performance.

Beginning this year, teachers will be rated on a four-tier system, with those rated “effective” and “highly effective” eligible for tenure after three years, the mayor’s office announced in a statement today.

“This will transform the tenure system from one in which tenure is taken for granted, to one in which it must be earned through effective performance in the classroom,” the mayor’s office said in its statement.

Tenure currently is awarded at the discretion of principals and school superintendents, said Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, a union with about 200,000 members, including secretaries and retired teachers. There are about 80,000 active teachers in New York City schools, said Margie Feinberg, a spokeswoman for the district.

“Right now a principal can deny tenure to a teacher for any reason,” Mulgrew said in an e-mail. “Most teachers would welcome an objective tenure-granting process based on agreed- upon standards.”

The mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News.

Tenure’s History

The tenure system was introduced to protect teachers from dismissals based on their politics or beliefs, or the whim of a principal, said Jeffrey Henig, a professor at Teachers College, a unit of Columbia University in New York. In recent years tenure has been criticized for protecting ineffectual teachers in big city school districts, he said.

“In point of fact, the award of tenure was been automatic or pretty close to universal in many systems,” Henig said.

Henig said more city school unions are willing to discuss modifying tenure rules and he pointed to the example of Washington, where in a new contract ratified in June, ineffective teachers can be removed from the system.

“There is room for negotiated reforms of tenure, as long as partners are sitting around a table and looking for common ground and not just scoring rhetorical points,” Henig said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Oliver Staley in New York at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jonathan Kaufman at

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